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Hong Kong may seem like a crowded metropolis where department stores, big banks and massive high-rises fly up to greet you at every turn. But those who are eager to see beyond the glitzy glam of Asia's World City might be surprised to find that there's a lot of nature and culture available here. With just a quick MTR or ferry ride required to transport you out of Central and into the more rustic and beautiful areas of HK, what excuse do you have? Here are our suggestions for four of Hong Kong's most convenient day trips.

Lantau Island

What to do: Lantau seems like a random assortment of things - HK Disneyland, a temple or two and the airport that most of us touch down on when we first arrive in Hong Kong. But upon closer glance, Lantau evolves from a hodgepodge of different things into a lovely nature reserve in the midst of a busy city. Visitors to the island should definitely take the Ngong Ping cable car, a stunning ride for about $500 that'll whisk you above the ocean and transport you at the feet of the Tian Tan Buddha, one of the five largest Buddha statues in all of China. Once you're done your Buddhist pilgrimage, visit Po Lin Monastary and take a trek on one of the numerous hiking trails around the island. Bring your camera - the lovely mountains are going to astound you.

How to get there: Lantau is easily accessible by MTR for about $20, and boat lovers can also catch a ferry there for $13 to $31 from the outlying islands terminal at the Central piers.

Lamma Island

What to do: Lamma is the place to chill out. With no cars on the island, a relaxed atmosphere where you can kick back and smell the sea salt and several alternative little shops for the intrepid traveller, Lamma is the stop for the HK hipster who needs downtime. Take a walk through the island's villages of Sok Kwu Wan and Mo Tat Wan to enjoy a nice seafood lunch, and then head over to the Bookworm Cafe in Yung Shue Wan village for a cup of coffee and maybe a live music performance. The whole island is fairly walkable, and the distance between the different villages is maybe an hour to ninety minutes at most. In these hot summer days, bring a hat for sun protection, and make stops at both the Lamma wind farm and the Japanese army-constructed Kamikaze Caves (both near Yung Shue Wan) as you stroll. See some of our other Lamma suggestions here.

How to get there: There are ferries running to all three major villages on Lamma. Get there from the Central piers, and expect to pay anywhere from $13 to $25 depending on which village you stop off at.

Sai Kung 

What to do: Sai Kung is a former fishing harbor, and there still exists a vibrant fishing community in this little slice of old Hong Kong. Expect to see junks aplenty, and prepare to spend a relaxing afternoon strolling the little lanes and markets of Sai Kung Town. When you're ready for something a little more extreme, take a cab ride out of town to Sai Wan Road and follow the signs for a one hour hike to Sheung Luk stream. There, the brave can try some cliff jumping. With a two-story waterfall and a gorgeous pool to dive into, this is one of the few spots in HK where you can jump from such a height and still make it out alive. The exhilarating thrill of Sai Kung cliff jumping has driven many expats to the area, and hitting that water on a hot summer day is sure to be a welcome shock to the senses.

How to get there: There are no MTR lines heading directly to Sai Kung Town, although the closest stops are Hang Hau and Choi Hung. If you catch minibus 101M from Hang Hau station or 1A from Choi Hung, you'll be there in around 30 minutes.

Peng Chau & Cheng Chau

What to do: Hong Kong has quite a few outlying islands for eager travellers to explore, but we picked these two for their relative proximity to Central and for another reason: their fabulous seafood! Bursting with fresh catches straight from the ocean, both Peng Chau and Cheung Chau are great places to hit up if you're a fan of lobster, crab, oysters, and all those other great things that come from deep down in the sea. At Peng Chau, be sure to stop by the best eatery on the island, "Express Restaurant," (快車茶餐廳)for a seafood feast. And if you're visiting Cheung Chau in April or May, don't miss the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, an event that can best be described as a Chinese version of Mardi Gras. Filled with lion dances, parades and an epic showcase at Pak Tai Temple where three large bamboo towers covered with edible Chinese buns are put on display, there's something to see for everyone.

How to get there: You can take the ferry to both Peng Chau and Cheung Chau from the Central Piers. Expect to pay from $15 to $23 dollars.

(Thanks to Joanne Lam for the Sai Kung cliff jumping photo)

By Jeremy Blum

Read about where to throw a junk/yacht party in Hong Kong.